Microsoft did something rarely accomplished by a tech company, with its surprise announcement of a press event to be held today where speculation of an unveiling of a some sort of tablet is expected. The tech press was caught flat-footed by this unexpected news and rumors about what the folks in Redmond will launch are rampant.
Colleague Mary Jo Foley wonders if this will be an ebook reader on steroids, kind of like the Kindle Fire, rather than a full-blown Windows RT tablet. This would be easier to pass off on Microsoft's partners who are lining up their own Windows tablets for launch later this year.
Ed Bott isn't so sure about that but would be happy if a tablet was behind all the mystery. He hits the nail on the head when he points out that whatever Microsoft announces better not be 4-6 months away from delivery.
Whatever Microsoft unleashes today, it's pertinent to remember that if it flops, big companies aren't afraid to pull the plug quickly and move on. Microsoft did that with the infamous Kin smartphone line. If you remember the Kin phones they were handsets that seemed to be rushed to market, aimed at a target audience with little disposable income, and saddled with expensive data plans.
They weren't received well by the market and Microsoft killed them off without hesitation. Should the same reception greet whatever this mystery tablet we're expecting to hear about today, no doubt the plug will be pulled quickly.
You don't have to go back too far in history to find other major gadgets that got the same treatment by the creators. Palm was betting the farm on the Foleo, a laptop dock that used a smartphone to power it, yet canceled it at the 11th hour. It never made it to market but was literally only days away from that when it was aborted.
More recently the HP TouchPad tablet was killed only days after its launch. Even after a massive $1.2 billion purchase of Palm and a massive roll-out of the TouchPad, HP put a stop to not only the tablet but all webOS devices. The subsequent open-sourcing of the platform was the direct result of killing the entire product line at HP.
There is no telling what Microsoft will let loose on the tech world, and they might even be successful with it like the Xbox. But if they flop like they did with the Kin, don't worry. They'll just yank the plug and move on. It will end up joining the ranks of the little gadgets that couldn't.